With an estimated 143 million orphans in the world, why does an adoptive family have to jump through so many hoops to adopt one of them? What’s with all the paper work and legal fees? Why all the home visits and personal references? Why should anyone make a dime on the demise of a child who would otherwise live out his childhood in an orphanage and then left on the streets once he “times out” of the system? Why isn’t adoption easy and cheap?
This is Part Eleven of a series on Adoption called Everything I Want You to Know About Adoption. To see the links to each individual post in this series, click the “adoption” tab on the nav bar at the top of the blog, or click here.
Understanding the Cost
Adoption can be very expensive. I won’t sugar coat that fact. (See my post on Financing Your Adoption for creative and effective ways to ease the financial burden). But many people look at the lump sum of the adoption costs and conclude children are being bought, sold and otherwise exploited, without considering what the fees actually cover.
Here is a breakdown of the fees from Elliana’s adoption:
$50.00 Application-Adoption Assistance
5000.00 Agency Fee, Heart to Heart
83.85 Birth Certificates
53.90 Criminal Records/Marriage Cert
685.00 Finger Prints
418.00 Passports (for 4 of us)
1500.00 Home study/Adoption Assistance
115.00 Certification of Documents
565.00 Embassy Fees
22,500.00 Guatemala Fee (this included attorney fees and money to foster family to care for Elliana for a year before we could get her)
587.50 Lab fees (Guatemala runs DNA tests to verify that the mother and child are actually mother and child. This protects children who might otherwise be kidnapped and sold into the adoption system by an adults who are not their parents.)
2732.40 Plane Fare/Delta (We took our 2 children to Guatemala with us)
2832.30 Hotel (We stayed at a nice hotel for a week. We could have stayed at a cheaper hotel and left after 2 days, drastically reducing this fee.)
I know. I looked at that final number and gasped, too.
Note, first, the birthmother does not get paid. That’s a huge misconception many people have about the process. The birthmom is not– in any way– “selling her baby.” That’s a myth. Depending on the type and place of the adoption, she may receive reimbursement for her prenatal care, living expenses while she was pregnant and the medical expenses for the birth. But if she receives any compensation above that, she is doing so illegally.
Second, it takes dozens of people to take a child from an orphan situation to the place where he is your child. And these dozens of people are working legal, ethical, paying jobs. No one works for free. Well, I do, but I’m a mom. And a mediocre blogger. But people with real jobs outside the home can’t work for free, nor should they.
Here’s just a sampling of the people who have a hand in helping you adopt your child:
a. The social worker who makes several trips to your home to make certain your pills are locked in a child-proof cabinet and your fire extinguisher is functioning properly, not to mention, make certain you and your spouse are not on the verge of divorce or in need of psychiatric treatment.
b. The agency worker who processes all your paper work, deals with your attorney, meets with you and the birth family and fields your many phone calls—over the course of your entire adoption (usually a year or more of work involved). In Elijah’s adoption, we worked with an adoption coordinator who did not take a fee and existed soley on donations. She was not able to operate for very long that way–she eventually started charging a fee for her services.
c. The attorney who drafts and files all your paperwork, makes sure all the language in every document is accurate, and every signature authentic, then shows up in court to ensure every legal hoop is properly executed so no one can come back later and claim the child is not legally yours.
d. The guy at immigration who takes your fingerprints.
e. The lady at the post office who carefully places all your documents in the overnight envelope to ensure it gets to the right place as soon as possible.
f. The people at the courthouse who pull your birth certificate and your marriage certificate.
g. The doctor, the nurse and the lab technician who examine you and look at your blood and urine to determine that you are healthy and physically capable of parenting a child.
h. The guy who runs your criminal check in every state you’ve ever lived to make sure you haven’t committed crimes against children…or anyone.
Understanding the Scrutiny
Hey yeah…speaking of criminal checks and fingerprints and paperwork, why all the questions? Why must an agency know how much money we’ve made in the last 2 years or what friends and family think about my parenting or if I’ve been treated for mental illness? What business is it of theirs?
First, consider one very, big, giant fact: The child you are trying to adopt is not your child. No one will, (or should!) place a child in any old home, just because he needs a home. It is for the sole protection of the child to make sure the adoptive parents are decent, healthy people. We all know you are decent and healthy, but they need to know it, too.
Yes, the paperwork is a pain. I won’t sugar-coat that either. So, every time I felt “put out” by obtaining another certificate or providing more proof of my parent-worthiness, I told myself, “If this process saves one child from ending up in an abusive, neglectful home, then it’s totally worth it.”
Second, you are paying for peace of mind. You are paying for assurance that the child you are adopting is now fully and legally yours. You want people to make sure the birthparents know their rights and that they weren’t coerced or deceived in any way. You want people to double and triple check every document to prevent anyone coming back later and revoking your parental rights.
Third, remember, having a baby biologically is not free either. Because of insurance, most people never see the actual cost of having a baby. Here is an estimation of pregnancy and birth expenses, according to WebMD,
1. Prenatal care: $2,000
2. Prenatal vitamins: $10-$20 per bottle
3. Birthing classes $20- 500 per class.
4. An uncomplicated cesarean section : $15,000
5. An uncomplicated vaginal birth: $9,000.
Two interesting notes: The cost of the “uncomplicated cesarean” was the same amount I paid to fully process Elijah’s adoption.
When my oldest son, Noah was born, I had an emergency cesarean, and he was in the NICU for 6 weeks. The cost of his birth exceeded $100,000.
The Complex and Very Big Picture
This subject is so big, I am sure I am neither qualified nor capable of addressing it in one post, if at all. But I do believe strongly that, when we point our finger at a lengthy and expensive adoption process, we are pointing at the wrong culprit. The real problem is not “adoption.”
The real problem is children without parents.
In a perfect world, every child would have a home with two loving, healthy, functional parents—a man and a woman—who are married. But sin and poverty and war and disease and crime (and probably a thousand other factors ) render millions of children without parents and in need of a loving family. And that’s why we adopt them.
Adoption is one solution. It’s not THE solution. But I personally believe it’s the best solution, under the circumstances.
For more reading on this subject, check out this article by Kevin D. Hendricks, who articulates his thoughts on the matter way better than I do. The comments section is worth the read, too.
Also, my friend Missy wrote this thought-provoking post on adoption called “Am I a Hero”? Everything she writes is awesome. This post won’t dissapoint you.
Q4U: What are your thoughts on the compication, length or cost of the adoption process? Has that deterred you from considering adoption?